Hoping for some Sunny time in goal

Stopper gave up his Canadian passport to play for India

Hoping for some Sunny time in goal

Goalkeeper Sunny Dhaliwal easily catches one’s eye in the Indian team. At six feet five inches, his presence is indeed imposing. The 17-year-old, who was born in Canada, says he is thrilled to be the part of the World Cup side and hopes to contribute in the tournament.

Dhaliwal, 17, and defender Namit Deshpande, are the two non-resident Indians in the team. Both are products of All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Overseas Scouting Project. Deshpande, who has an Indian passport, was born in the country before moving to the US at age of six. Dhaliwal was born in Brampton. He surrendered his Canadian passport in the hope of better prospects.

“I came to know that the All India Football Federation was inviting online applications from Persons of Indian Origin for the under-17 World Cup. I discussed it with my family and went for it. I then came to Goa earlier this year for the trials. My family back home is very happy that I am part of the Indian team for the World Cup,” Dhaliwal told DH.

Dhaliwal completes the line-up of three Indian goalkeepers which includes Prabhsukhan Gill and Dheeraj Singh Moirangth, who is considered the first-choice goalkeeper by head coach Luis Norton de Matos.

“The team environment is excellent, and we have got a very good coach. Our defenders are great, as a goalkeeper I expect a lot from them. We are all very excited to play for India. We open against the US and I have played against some of the guys, though it was a long time ago. I hope I get to play in the Indian colours. It is a fantastic opportunity,” he said.

Dhaliwal brings with him his own set of experience. His height is a major advantage and it grabbed the attention of the Indian scouts. He has also had stints as a goalkeeper for the youth squad of Major League Soccer club Toronto FC.

Former India goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly, however, counted fitness to be of paramount importance. “A goalkeeper is the last man in defence but the first man for the forwards. Height is naturally a big advantage for the goalkeeper as it helps in blocking the aerial shots, especially the crosses. He can collect it easily and that can be a big help for the defenders. But more than anything else, he needs to be fit. If he is not fit, height would mean little,” Ganguly, who was India’s captain at the 1982 Asian Games, told DH.

“These boys are playing in such a big tournament for the first time and that too at home. It is tough and a goalkeeper can be under tremendous pressure. My advice would be to first protect the goal and then go for the attack.”

Dhaliwal would do well to remember that advice whenever he gets the chance to stand under the India bar.

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